Taylor Swift is Time Magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year. The honor came today (December 6) with a profile of Swift, who rarely gives interviews. Speaking to Time’s Sam Lansky, Swift discussed her current “Eras” era (a period of unprecedented industry domination), addressing the intensive preparation process for her ongoing international tour and her highly publicized relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Elsewhere in the profile, though, she gave insight into a less triumphant chapter of her career: her public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in 2016 over lyrics from West’s The Life of Pablo track “Famous.”
For those who don’t remember, the beef’s inception dates back to seven year’s before TLOP’s release, when West interrupted Swift’s Best Female Video acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV VMAs to point out that Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” video — which had just lost out on the award to Swift’s “You Belong With Me” visuals — was “one of the best videos of all time.” Needless to say, footage of the incident went viral.
Seven years later, West used “Famous” as an opportunity to joke about the incident, rapping, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” In the wake of the song’s release, Swift denied West’s claim that he had obtained her approval to use the lyric. Kardashian (West’s wife at the time) then released a recording of part of a phone call in which Swift appeared to OK the line, leading many online commentators to turn on Swift. The full recording of the call surfaced in 2020, vindicating Swift inasmuch as it showed she’d only consented to the setup (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”) and not the punchline (“I made that bitch famous”).
In her Time interview, Swift described 2016 as a year of personal crisis, referring to the edited phone call’s fallout as “getting canceled within an inch of my life and sanity,” a powerful blow to her career trajectory.
“You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar,” Swift said. “That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.”
Near the end of the profile, Lansky describes his initial reaction to Swift’s account of the fiasco: “that it did not always look that way from the outside — that, for example, when [Swift’s 2017 album] Reputation’s lead single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ reached No. 1 on the charts, or when the album sold 1.3 million albums in the first week, second only to 1989, she did not look like someone whose career had died. She looked like a superstar who was mining her personal experience as successfully as ever.
“I am tempted to say this,” Lansky continues. “But then I think, Who am I to challenge it, if that’s how she felt? The point is: she felt canceled. She felt as if her career had been taken from her. Something in her had been lost, and she was grieving it.”